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Minnesota State Extends WCHA Lead with 4-2 Win Over Michigan Tech

Matt Christians

In front of a record crowd at the Verizon Wireless Center, Minnesota State defeated Michigan Tech by a score of 4-2 to take three points in the weekend series between the two top-five ranked teams, and take a three-point lead on the Huskies in the WCHA standings heading into the final weekend of the regular season next weekend.

Michigan Tech got on the board first when David Johnstone skated down the left wing and beat Minnesota State goalie Stephon Williams high to the short side. But Minnesota State was able to answer back just 15 seconds later on a rebound goal by Dylan Margonari. It appeared the two teams would head to the locker room tied, until Jon Jutzi's wrist shot from the point snuck past Michigan Tech goalie Jamie Phillips to give Minnesota State a 2-1 lead after the first frame.

Michigan Tech would tie the game when Chris Leibinger came out of the penalty box behind the Minnesota State defense and received a pass for a breakaway. He snuck the puck between the legs of Williams to even the score at 2-2.

Minnesota State took the lead back at the 11:58 mark of the second period on a goal by defenseman Carter Foguth. Bryce Gervais added an insurance goal on the power play in the third period to bring the game to its' final score.

The win moves Minnesota State to 24-6-3 on the season and 20-3-3 in the WCHA. They travel to Bemidji next weekend to take on Bemidji State, needing just a single point(or a single point lost by Michigan Tech) to clinch a share of their first ever MacNaughton Cup. Michigan Tech will play a home-and-home series against Northern Michigan, needing a sweep and some serious help from Bemidji State to have a shot at finishing first overall in the league.

Fancy Stats

Shots on goal: MSU: 14-8 -9-31    MTU: 7-6-7-20

Even strength shot attempts: MSU: 20-14-16-50-52.6%    MTU: 13-18-14-45-47.4%

Prime scoring area attempts: MSU:6-6-5-17    MTU: 2-10-8-20

What do the numbers tell us?

Minnesota State had another big edge in shots, but the possession numbers indicate this game was a lot closer than last night at even strength.  The prime scoring area attempts are low compared to your average game which shows that ice in front of the net was hard to come by in this game with two strong defensive teams. It's also worth noting that Minnesota State blocked about a third of Michigan Tech's shot attempts for the second straight night(15 of 48 tonight).

Game notes:

-It was full building with people lining the stairways along the end of the sidelines here tonight. The official attendance was 5446, setting a record for a hockey crowd at the Verizon Wireless Center. But unlike earlier this season when Minnesota State set an attendance record in a game against Minnesota Duluth, the home team won tonight. Add in the emotions of a big series against a highly-ranked team, high stakes in the WCHA standings, and it being senior night and it all made for a pretty special night in Mankato.

The evening closed with Mike Hastings taking to the mic for a spontaneous speech to the crowd, to highlight the efforts of his seniors, give thanks to Minnesota State's first head coach Don Brose--who he pulled out of the crowd and brought onto center ice for an ovation--and thank the fans for their support and hoping they'd attend the team's playoff series in two weeks. It was, as Mankato Free Press beat writer Shane Frederick dubbed it, a "rock star" performance from the coach, and an exclamation point on his coaching performance after taking over what was almost a dead program three years ago and transforming them into one of the nation's best.

-Timely goals played a huge role for Minnesota State. After going down 1-0, then only trailed for 15 seconds, getting the goal right back, and then scoring in the final minute of the first period. They had some bad luck to give up the breakaway goal that tied the game at two, but Hastings credited the senior leadership for keeping the bench positive after that, which allowed Minnesota State to retake the lead and eventually earn the victory.

-Jamie Phillips was very good for Michigan Tech again tonight. There's no doubt that he's developed into one of the nation's premier goalies. It's a credit to Minnesota State that they were able to get four pucks past him tonight, the first team to do so against Phillips this season. They did so by getting traffic in front of Phillips and getting shots from the point through traffic and on net, rather than finding shin pads like they did last night.

The only real "clean" goal of the night was the last one by Bryce Gervais on the power play. Gervais had a ton of chances all weekend, including breakaways last night and tonight.

-CJ Franklin returned to the line-up for Minnesota State. Hastings said Franklin had been "100%" for a while and wanting to get into the line-up. He finally got an opportunity tonight and made a difference, taking a hit and making a play to set up Jutzi's goal at the end of the first period.

-This was an extremely well-played series by two very good teams, and a lot of fun to watch. These are two of the five best teams in the country hands down. Minnesota State was just a little bit better this weekend.

Final Scoring

First Period

15:41 David Johnstone from Tanner Kero 1-0 Michigan Tech

Johnstone created a turnover at the Minnesota State blue line and raced down the left wing on a 2-on-1. Jonhstone kept the puck and took a high wrist shot that beat Williams over the shoulder on the near side.

15:56 Dylan Margonari from Brad McClure and Zach Palmquist 1-1 tie

Margonari found a loose puck off a scramble in front of the net that he knocked back into the net for the rebound goal.

19:55 Jon Jutzi from CJ Franklin and Chase Grant 2-1 Minnesota State

Jutzi received a pass from Franklin at the left point and fired a wrist shot through traffic that beat a screened Phillips.

Second Period

4:55 Chris Leibinger from Mike Neville and Cliff Watson 2-2 tie

Leibinger came out of the penalty box as his penalty expired and caught a pass from Neville for a breakaway. He shot the puck low through the five hole of Williams for the goal.

11:58 Carter Foguth from Brett Knowles and Max Gaede 3-2 Minnesota State

Knowles was denied on a chance in close at the left side of the crease, but picked up his own rebound, circled around the net and passed the puck out to Foguth in the high slot, who slipped a wrist shot past Phillips for the goal.

Third Period